'tis the season

Having two kids certainly has its pluses and minuses--double the love but double the work. Yesterday was a double the work kind of day. As soon as I had one child settled, the other needed me. It went on and on like that until they both were finally asleep, which didn't officially happen until around 1 AM. Sheesh.

It has taken me a while, but I'm starting to accept that a busy day does not have to equal a bad one. Although I crashed into bed completely exhausted, it was because those endless hours were mostly filled with love, giggles and fun. (I put a glimpse of that fun up for my sisters here. Of course, please feel free to peek into their present.)  

And today it feels like much of the same. Somehow the girls know a holiday is approaching so nap times are shorter and attention spans are more easily diverted in anticipation of the excitement to come. Although we aren't hosting the big day this week, there are preparations to be made so the air is filled with energy. Yes, something is definitely brewing, besides my life-saving coffee.

It's amazing how much we put into making days magical for our kids, isn't it? Orchestrating travel plans, packing the car, unpacking the car, budgeting for gifts and special meals, cross referencing present purchases with grandparents, hunting for semi-matching Christmas outfits, prioritizing what we have time to do and what we must let go of. All to ensure that the most wonderful time of the year is exactly that.

When I was a kid I don't remember my parents going crazy so our Thanksgivings and Christmases could be great. I remember going along for the ride of whatever the plans were that year, having a really good time, and of course, soaking up the joy of Christmas morning and all that it was for us kids. While I don't feel like my parents ever went overboard around the holidays, now I'm old enough to understand that the decision to hold back can be just as stressful and difficult as a decision to go all out. In fact, choosing to be mindful is probably even more stressful than purchasing everything imaginable. How much is too much? Do we buy and choose gifts based on what the kids need, what we can afford, or what we think is reasonable and appropriate? How do we come up with those answers?

The more I see suffering around the world, the more difficult it is for me to feel good about buying a ton of new things for ourselves and our girls when we already have so much. I feel this pull between wanting to give all that we have to others who are less fortunate, like buying a water buffalo for a family in Africa, and desperately wanting to see my kids' faces light up when they see gifts waiting for them under the tree. How do we reconcile the true message of Christmas with the message the rest of the commercialized world spreads much more effectively? (It would seem that Toys R Us has a bigger marketing campaign than all world religions combined.)

This is a battle I have to fight with myself every day as well. I have to make myself delete all of those ads filling my in box telling me that the best deal of the year is for today only, all I have to do is "click here for savings". And I dare anyone to watch Oprah's Favorite Things episode without allowing one shred of envy to creep up into your heart. I know I can't. A pair of Ugg boots, a Coach bag and and iPad sound pretty good, I must say. Sigh.

In a few days, we will gather with family to pause and give thanks for all that we are grateful for in our lives... and to stuff our faces. These days I am finding it easier and easier to make my list of all that I feel truly blessed to have, and very few of those things are material possessions. I suppose that list is what I need to keep in mind as we move forward to Black Friday and the season of Advent.

It's funny that whenever I hear "Black Friday" it always makes me think of Good Friday. Coincidence? Or perhaps is that the answer to my questions?

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